By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 16, 2022 at 12:56 PM

For 90 minutes, the finale to Clayton's season of "The Bachelor" somehow made the past three months totally worth it.

For those of us who spent each recent Monday night – and the occasional Tuesday night – howling at the screen at rage, watching our two final women take turns pummeling Clayton and his egregiously self-centered behavior into oblivion like they were reenacting the end of Tarantino's "Death Proof" was like Scrooge McDucking into a pool of golden catharsis. Watching Clayton sow? Terrible television, F- grade, please see me after class. Watching Clayton reap, on the other hand? Excellent work, A+, welcome to Harvard for Reality Television.

But then the show continued – or so at least I've been told.

You see, as soon as host Jesse Palmer said, "For the first time in history, our Bachelor ends up alone ... (*dramatic pause longer than the entirety of "Drive My Car"*) ... OR DOES HE?!", my brain turned off. My mind dissociated from my conscious self in order to protect itself, so I wouldn't have to witness what happened next. As a result, lucky for me, I missed all that nonsense and became aware just in time to see the new, all-too-deserving "Bachelorette" announced. But if your brain and senses weren't as kind as mine, you saw a "happy" ending that not one person had asked for and that ruined an otherwise perfect reckoning. Or at least I think that's what happened. Thanks brain! (BUT YOU COULDN'T HAVE DONE THIS DURING ALL OF SHANAE'S SCREENTIME!?)

Let's start with the stuff I was able to watch. We open on the live studio, where not one person is rooting for the Bachelor – much to the dismay of "The Bachelor." Palmer, however, promises drama and surprises and ... oh no, is that Neil Lane in the crowd? YOU BETTER JUST BE THERE AS A FAN, RING MAN! My brain was already threatening to dissociate from the get-go, but thankfully things improved significantly. Joining Neil Lane in the crowd was a plethora of "Bachelor" alumni – which gave off less of a "this is a big special episode" vibe and more of a "we couldn't give away enough seats to this thing, so we got our friends as seat fillers" vibe. And hold on a second: WHO THE HELL INVITED SHANAE TO THIS CLAMBAKE!? Oh no, the brain's going. The brain's going into its shell. 

Thankfully, I pulled myself out of that just in time for the main event: Clayton destroying everyone's emotions and feelings one final time for good measure and everyone going scorched earth nuclear reaction on him in return like Linda Hamilton's nightmare apocalypse in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

For the complete opposite of nuclear fire, we return to Iceland where Clayton is coming to terms with the fact that, while he may love Gabby and Rachel, and loves Susie the mostest. So he sends Jesse Palmer to check on Susie, who conveniently is still in town. Though that's not THAT strange; if I was vacationing and heartbroken on ABC's dime, I wouldn't leave until they dragged me out of the hotel either. I would've dined out EVERYWHERE and ordered EVERYTHING. I would be Anna Delvey-ing all over Iceland with ABC's credit card. 

What's a little wonkier is sending Jesse Palmer to talk to Susie. Last night, Cassie Randolph talked about how she hoped Susie wouldn't feel pressured to give Clayton or "The Bachelor" the happy ending they want – but sending the figurehead of the show, essentially your boss at the moment, to say that Clayton's been a wreck and that you should TOTALLY talk with him, is basically exactly that. Maybe Tayshia and Kaitlyn would've done better; they have more personality as hosts while Palmer, at this moment, is just Bachelor Man. (Though his dramatic pauses Tuesday night show he might be growing into that role quite nicely ... but more on that later.) Anyways, while all this is happening, the picture-in-picture box in the corner is just rotating shot after shot of people shaking their heads no. It ruled. 

Unfortunately, Susie doesn't take the live studio's advice and decides to meet up with Clayton at his parents' AirBnb. FORTUNATELY, however, Susie's not there to particularly give Clayton a chance. She's there to verbally lay Clayton out, letting the man know who horribly he treated her during their big blow-up fight last week. He made her feel guilty for her own values and not trust her own intuition and humiliated her and made her feel like a dog and MORE SUSIE! MOOOORE! LET THE RAGE FLOW THROUGH YOU! For the first time – and certainly not the last time this episode – someone's making Clayton grasp how little he's thought about anyone else, how much he has not considered that he may be "The Bachelor" but he's not the only one on this journey. 

Clayton tries to explain himself by saying that fear overcame him – but that he still truly loves her the most and wants to try to make things work if she'll let him. Susie understandably doesn't know how to respond to that just yet – but she lets him know she's heard him and then leaves. The one big unasked question hanging over this conversation: Does Clayton still love the other women? You know, THOSE TWO OTHER WOMEN YOU'RE STILL DATING RIGHT NOW, CURRENTLY STUCK IN A HOTEL THINKING YOU LOVE THEM!? I don't know; if I wanted to prove to someone that I had changed and had truly committed to them, I would probably DITCH MY OTHER GIRLFRIENDS FIRST before asking her to be my one and only. Your order of operations here, Clayton, is wacky. 

Clayton DOES finally remember that he has two other girlfriends – that both love him, that both think they have a chance with him, that both entrusted him despite (*gestures at everything*) – so after he does some little sketches in his little bedtime notebook, he goes to break up with Gabby and Rachel. He's going to take responsbility – good. He knows he deserves whatever happens – good. He's going to break up with them at the exact same time – VERY VERY NOT GOOD! So after you treated these women the same way – making them feel special and loved only to reveal that they're not that at all, down to the same sidewalk proclamations of love – you're going ... to treat these women the same way and impersonally break up with them as a unit, like they don't each deserve individual attention and consideration in this moment. That's what you're going to do, Clayton? Well ... 

... this is gonna be fun. Go to work, ladies. 

Gabby has the best reaction of the two, clearly using up all of her hurt the night before and now just at the fury stage. I think Clayton probably expected tears, but instead Gabby just gives him basically a "Thanks, you're a clown; bye" before walking out. AKA exactly what he deserves. Clayton rushes out the door to check on Gabby – FOR THE SECOND TIME IN AS MANY DAYS LEAVING RACHEL ALONE TO CRY AND SOB IN SADNESS AND HURT. This girl deserves all the hot cocoa after this. (Also: THIS IS WHY YOU DON'T DO A JOINT BREAKUP! Even removing the impersonality of it all, now you're stuck trying to choose who to "comfort" first, guaranteed to leave someone behind.)

But first we're dealing with Gabby, who utterly decimates Clayton. Unlike the Shanae reckoning at the Women Tell All, which just descended into unsatisfying chaos as she dragged all the other women down into her muck, Gabby works like a surgeon here, cutting apart Clayton's arguments and pride-salvaging excuses with clear-eyed precision. She says that she left them in a lurch for TWO DAYS in a foreign country, under the guise that he cared about them and loved them, only to come back and reveal that nah, they weren't enough after all. She pointedly states that he just kept them around because he – and, more specifically, his pride – was hurt, not because he actually loved them. And, most of all, she deflates the notion that he loves her – because he can say that word all he wants, but not one action he's taken has shown it.

In short: It rules, and her three-minute speech is better than most of the current Best Picture nominees – topped off by a perfect final line.

Cinema. Pure cinema. 

Back in the live studio, Gabby comes on stage to say her peace – starting off by hugging her adorable grandpa on the way out. "That was a beautiful moment right there with your grandpa," notes Palmer. Yes – but the true beautiful moment was WHEN SHE PUNCHED CLAYTON'S SOUL INTO MARS WITH WORDS. Speaking of Clayton, after Gabby chats a bit about how she was done being hurt and just wanted an answer in that moment, the show sends him out to have a final chat with her – and she's not done. Gabby says she was misled – assumably talking about the current revelation that he ALWAYS knew he loved Susie most and just kept them around as selfish consolations – and when Clayton tries to say ONCE AGAIN that he felt love for her, she corrects him one last time: No, you didn't. Maybe it was infatuation or affection – but love requires work, respect, trust and responsibility, and Clayton never offered any of that to these women. And with that, the now-singed ashes of Clayton blow off the stage. 

Oops, not so fast! You forgot Rachel exists – AS ALWAYS. So back in the breakup, after getting roasted to hell by Gabby, Clayton pops back over to a distraught Rachel, who explains that their fantasy suite date meant so much to her and that him yelling his love to her meant the world to her ... and now it's ruined. (Wait until you see that he did that move to Gabby too!) Rachel then brings up the most devastating point: She was the only one who stood with him the whole way. Susie left him. Gabby rejected him. But Rachel chose to trust him and to fight for him – and her reward was to be tossed out with another woman and not even given a chance. 

There's no good response to this – but Clayton's "I'm sorry you feel that way" is CERTAINLY A BAD ONE. Pro-tip for apologizing: Say your sorry for YOUR actions, not THEIR feelings. "I apologize what what I did" takes accountability for your mistake. "I apologize that you feel that way" puts the onus on the other person, that they're choosing to react poorly and you feel bad about that. Somehow worse? Asking to walk Rachel out, leading to the night's most heartbreaking moment: Rachel sobbing out "I can't believe you're going to put me in this car" to Clayton as he ushers the woman he supposedly loved out of his life. Meanwhile, Rachel's dad is in the picture-in-picture box, assuming putting on a pair of MMA gloves and preparing to concuss Clayton. He'd have to wait in an orderly queue. I imagine it'd look like that scene in "Airplane!" when everyone's lined up to shake some sense into the panicking passenger. 

Lucky for Clayton, Rachel's parents and everyone else in the crowd is on their best behavior, letting Rachel handle the verbal smackdown all on her own. And she is more than capable, brutally assessing all the disrespect she endured and clarifying that she's crying not because she has any feeling for Clayton but because she can't believe what happened to her. (Jesse then asks, "Do you still have any feelings for Clayton?" LISTEN AND KEEP UP, PALMER!) Clayton then comes out, greeted by absolutely nothing from Rachel – no standing up, no smile, no eye contact, NO MERCY. ONE LOVES TO SEE IT!

Rachel lays out that she (and Gabby) became collateral damage in Clayton's journey for love – which truly was Clayton's core problem this entire season. Whether it was not realizing what Shanae was doing to the other women or not realizing what he was doing to the final three women here, Clayton's brain was solely on finding love and how things impacted him – no one else. He was singularly focused to the level of becoming a selfish sociopath. May he be a cautionary tale to all future leads: Never go full "Bachelor." Always remember you're a human too, with human co-stars – and maybe people won't boo your existence for years to come!

Anyways, Rachel wraps things up by asking if Clayton just said that he loved her just to sleep with her. He flatly denies that – but even if you believe him (and Rachel certainly does not), it's not like his behavior backs that up. 

So that was "The Bachelor" dunk contest – and congratulations, Gabby and Rachel, you all receive tens. BUT WAIT, WE HAVE ONE MORE CONTENDER! Lost in all of the carnage is that Susie's still in play, receiving a big long note from Clayton – though probably just "I! AM FALLING! IN LOVE WITH YOU! AND IT FEELS! SO GOOD!"on paper. Despite everyone in the picture-in-picture box making stink faces at the note, Susie arrives at Clayton's cabin where he plans to propose – or at the very least just shake his ring at her so she knows THIS IS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU. My dude, that ring means nothing; you're not even buying her off because that's ABC's ring. 

Considering Susie showed up in glamorous white, I was concerned this would end unhappily happily ever after. I would've shown up in sweats and a workout shirt to emphasize how little I thought of Clayton at that moment – but Susie's a better person, with a better wardrobe, than me. After hearing his speech, she says she has love in her heart for Clayton ... but – THE WORLD'S MOST GLORIOUS "BUT" – she doesn't feel the love he feels for her anymore, so she's leaving Iceland alone. Clayton makes sure one last time, saying that it's not over unless she says it's over – and Susie DOES. She says "I think it's over," and THAT'S THAT! Audience members, if you look under your seat, you'll find bottles of champagne – POP AWAY! WOOO!

And that's when the episode ended for me and the dissociative mental blackout began.

From what I gather, Clayton talked to Palmer some more how, even with the mistakes, he followed his heart. A thought for Clayton: Consider following your brain more. He apparently seems very forlorn ... but then Palmer reveals that a woman reached out to Clayton after filming and that mystery woman is here backstage right now. Is it Gabby or Rachel? (LOL no) Is it Kira, who made a move at the end of the Women Tell All? Is it Shanae? (Dear god ... ) Is it the random woman from the first 15 minutes of the season who bailed before the show even began?

No, it is ... Susie. (Apparently – again my brain cannot and will not accept that more episode happened between 8:30-50 p.m. CST; these are all rumors to my mind.) 

So supposedly Susie walks out to subbdued forced audience applause – because as you can imagine, after watching this man face a much-earned reckoning for ruining two other women's hearts, two women who are IN THE BUILDING WITH THEIR FAMILIES, no one's rooting for a happy ending for this man at this moment. Even Palmer, I hear, asks Susie what the hell she's doing there. But she confirms that they're dating – and that they know people aren't likely rooting for them right now, but they hope that they can moving forward. Which sure, fine. If they're happy, they're happy. Maybe no longer being "The Bachelor" will turn Clayton back into a decent human being. Plus, we thought Rachel and Bryan sucked too, and they're still the rare happy longterm "Bachelor" couple. (Though they didn't decimate others on the way there.)

After talking about how Clayton's moved to Virginia to really commit to this, I'm told Palmer asks if there's anything Clayton would like to do – and he starts fidgeting on stage. And Neil Lane starts fidgeting in his seat. AND I START FIDGETING TOWARD POURING GASOLINE ON MYSELF SO THERE'S NO CHANCE I HAVE TO SEE YOU PROPOSE TO A WOMAN YOU MISTREATED ON NATIONAL TV, IN FRONT OF THE TWO WOMEN YOU MISTREATED ON NATIONAL TV PLUS THEIR FAMILIES! (Or I would; again, brain wasn't home, gone fishing.) But thankfully Clayton – for possibly the first time this entire season – considers other people's feelings and emotions, and instead just offers Susie the final rose he never got to hand out. Aww that's nice.

Now to never think of you ever again – which will be easy because THERE'S WHITE SMOKE; WE HAVE A NEW BACHELORETTE! Or I should say bachelorettes, plural, because Jesse Palmer names not Gabby or Rachel as the show's new stars but Gabby AND Rachel. HELL YEAH, YOU OWED THEM THIS!

But before I get too excited, we need to talk, "Bachelor" producers: You better not mess this up. There is a chance for a GREAT season here. Two Bacheloretes would provide an opportunity for a much-needed rejiggering of the show's increasingly stale formula. (Wow, another emotional story told over an untouched dinner, followed by a private concert from an unknown country act – really getting me in the heartstrings with this very personal display, show.) And most importantly, after a fully toxic season that was often unrelenting ugliness, we could instead focus on positivity, not pitting these two women against one another but instead letting us watch them have a great time drinking wine, playfully gossiping about boys and helping each other find love with good people. 

However, considering the last time the franchise tried something like this, they LITERALLY pit Kaitlyn Bristowe against Britt Nilsson in season 11 and gave the men the power in a "Bachelorette" season? AND considering they've already announced Jesse Palmer as the season's host as opposed to the far more playful Tayshia and Kaitlyn? AND considering everything they've done over the past three months? Yeah, I'm thinking my brain's far from done with that blackout switch. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.